Welcome to my beer blog. Here I'll post some of my thoughts on and reviews of craft brewed beer. Follow me on Twitter @AleThoughts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beer Review: North Coast Old Stock Cellar Reserve

It's a Celebration!
My buddy Greg shared this bottle of North Coast's Old Stock Cellar Reserve with me to celebrate a special occasion. Cellar Reserve is a bourbon barrel aged version of their 2009 vintage Old Stock Ale. We're huge fans of old ales and bourbon barrel aging. This is a pricey one at about $25 a bottle.

Poured in to a Duvel tulip it appears murky dark brownish red with a very thin white head and lots of carbonation streams. I was really shocked by this being that it's two years old. Bottle conditioning maybe? From a distance this looks a lot like cola.

It smells woody, of bourbon, caramel sweet with some strong alcohol notes. Whoa, boy. The flavors are savory with some obvious wood and bourbon flavors. The middle rounds out with a rich caramel sweetness with a hint of tartness. Surprisingly this beer finishes very clean with not much of an aftertaste. This felt thin in body for the style. You will warm up as drinking this as the alcohol is very present. I think some nap time will do this one good.

Overall I'd have to say that this was a very nice treat. This is a special beer as it's unique in flavor for the style. It's easy to sip and I'm sure it'll develop and mellow out even more over time. The only real downside here is the price.

Some up close bottle pictures:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beer Review: Sly Fox Odyssey Imperial IPA

Another treat from PA.
I bought a bottle of Sly Fox Brewing Company's Odyssey Imperial IPA a few weeks back with I was up in the Philly area. Remember that epic beer weekend? Here's the run down if you missed it. At about $6 for a 22 oz bottle the price was right. I enjoy the style and we don't get this back home. Here we go.

Poured in to a Dogfish Head signature glass. Appears hazy light copper with a thin and firm fine bubbled white head, small dotted lacing and minimal carbonation streams. The head thins out and dissipates a bit, but stays through the end of the tasting. Odyssey smells of spicy hops, almost floral and perfumy. There is some malt sweetness present in the nose as well.

Upon the first sips I'm greeted with huge spicy and bitter hop flavors. Tastes kind of like what I imagine candied grapefruit would taste like. The malt sweet and richness is less present in the flavor profile than in the aroma. It finishes with subtle hop bitterness with an aftertaste that doesn't stick around for more than a few seconds.

This tastes and feels like an above average double IPA. It's not a total hop or booze bomb, which is nice. At 8.4% ABV I was expecting this to taste a tad on the boozy side. But Sly Fox did a decent job of balancing out the flavors in this beer, though it leans a bit more towards the hoppy side as expected. I'd get this again in a few years, but it's nothing I'd go crazy to find.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beer Review: The Bruery Saison De Lente

Saison De Lente

I split this bottle of Saison De Lente from The Bruery with my wife and our friends Greg & Julia with an excellent dinner of beef tenderloin, asparagus and roasted red potatoes. This was my second time with this brew, first time from a bottle. It's been on my radar for some time now but I've always avoided it due to the price. Saw it last week in PA for $9. I bit. We enjoyed several bottles of their Autumn Maple back in the Fall. Mmm....looking forward to that again this year.

Mine poured in to a Duvel tulip and appeared cloudy bright gold with huge foamy white head that stays for a long time. It leaves behind sticky lacing and some good steady carbonation streams. The aroma is beautifully  presented with lemon and pepper notes, some clove notes as well. The flavors match the aroma profile. Delicate peppery spice up front, creamy lemon citrus in the middle that finishes crisp and tart. The flavors here are strong but not overpowering at all. Saison de Lente is perfect balanced.

This beer encompasses all that I love in a saison. It's clean, crisp and has some awesome spice and yeast flavors. It's extremely easy to drink and is not a palate killer but stands up to strong flavored food. This style in general is a favorite of mine. I would definitely buy this beer again, but I wouldn't pay much more than $10 for a bottle. I'd say that Saison De Lente is one of the finest American made saisons currently on the market. At it's current price point for my area this will remain a special occasion treat rather than a cellar/fridge regular.

I love the label art for this beer, and all of their beers for that matter. Here's a close up.

Do you see the bunnies?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beer Review: Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout

I picked up two 12 oz. bottles of Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout at Blue Dog Family Tavern in Chalfont, PA last weekend. I feel like I haven't seen this one store shelves near me. I think I remember seeing it or reading about it in DRAFT magazine. Seemed interesting and the price was right.

Poured from the bottle in to a snifter. Appears pitch black, with a dark tan purple laced head that scoots to the edge rather quickly. It smells of sweet blueberries, roasted coffee, dark chocolate and cherries. All expected aromas are present and accounted for. It tastes exactly like it smells but with a bitter and tart finish. Tart fruit flavors are very much up front, almost to a fault. But ,when you choose to get in to a blueberry stout you have to expect that. It feels thin to medium in body and is very easy to sip.

This was a nice sweet treat. Tres is certainly a unique and fairly well crafted beer. This is a beer that I'd pick up from time to time if I saw it. It would be nice to keep on hand for when you have the taste for it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beer Review: Weyerbacher Harvest Ale. Fresh is best for IPAs!

You don't look a day over 3 months.
I picked up this as a single about three weeks ago at the Perfect Pour in Columbia, MD. Weyerbacher's Harvest Ale is completely new to me. I've enjoyed many beers from Weyerbacher and I'm a big fan of American India Pale Ales.

Printed on the neck is:


I'm assuming that the top is a bottle date and the bottom is a "best by" date. So, I'm more than four months past prime. Damn. I should have checked that one out before purchasing. Shrug.

Poured a 12 oz. bottle in to a Hop*Ruiter glass. Comes out bright cloudy copper orange with a decent sized white head and 
sticky lacing that stays through the tasting. No hop notes in the aroma, mostly bready sweetness and a hint of citrus sweetness. I'm pretty sure it's underwhelming due to age. The flavor profile is similar to the aroma but with lightly bitter fruity hops up front. The middle is creamy and finishes sour with a long aftertaste. Feels medium in body. Pretty easy to drink, but the long muddled aftertaste makes me want something else.

It's my own dumb fault to have bought an old bottle, so I'm not passing too much judgement on this tasting. The mildly malty middle has me thinking that when this is fresh that it's very well balance with a full floral aroma. So, I'll look for this one in September and experience it fresh.

So, the moral of this story is to only drink fresh IPAs. This is something that my friends and I discuss a lot and I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't follow it. In my opinion there are few greater beer tasting experiences than enjoying a super fresh American IPA. But, I do believe that the beer isn't terrible after it's prime date. It's like a faded picture, you get the general idea but you've lost it's color and depth.

I plan to continue to purchase and enjoy Weyerbacher's brews. Quad and Blithering Idiot English barleywine are regulars in my house. We've got a few different vintages of each in the cellar collection. I very much have enjoyed Double Simcoe IPA in the past as well. It's always nice to support local(ish) brewers!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beer Review: New Belgium Ranger IPA

New Belgium Ranger
I got this bottle from my buddy Jeff in Seattle. I'd read and heard that this was a very good standard IPA. I'm very much excited about New Belgium beginning distribution to my area later this year. I've enjoyed a few from their Lips of Faith line, and have a few more sitting in the cellar.

I poured this 22 oz. bottle of Ranger in to a Weyerbacher tulip. It's crystal clear light copper with a big fluffy white head and sticky wedded lacing. There is some decent head retention throughout the tasting. It smells sweet, malty, citrusy and with some pungent hop notes. The flavors are mild hop bitterness up front, creamy fruity grapefruit sweet middle and a long lingering hoppy bitter finish. It feels medium bodied and crisp.

This is a decent and fairly well balanced IPA. It stands up there with the rest of my craft IPA choices and I can see myself getting a six pack or a few bombers a year. It's not mind blowing but it's very good for what it is. It's always nice to have options and to support craft brewers.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beer Review: DuClaw Sawtooth

DuClaw Sawtooth
I picked up DuClaw's Sawtooth as a single in a mix six pack within the last month. It's been in the fridge since. I've decided that I need to pay more attention to this local Maryland brewery. DuClaw's Colossus is one of my absolute favorite special occasion treats, but at close to 22% in alcohol content it's a true ass kicker. So, Sawtooth should be a nice change of pace for me. 

Belgian white ales (witbier) are extremely popular style with the masses who don't stray too far from the industrial macro lagers. It's pretty accessible as its citrus fruity, little to no bitterness and just a hint of spice and around 5% alcohol by volume. I can certainly appreciate a solid brew in this style that is easy to enjoy and leaves room for more.

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle in to a Dogfish Head signature glass. It's bright clear orange with a bright white head and little to no lacing. The foamy head goes to the edges quickly. Smells of bread yeast, light orange citrus and a little bready sweetness. The flavor is the same as the aroma but with a touch of spice, maybe coriander or cloves. Sawtooth finishes very tangy with a long after taste.

This is an average representation of the style. It's just a tad above "ok". Does that make sense? It's easy to put back, but the lasting aftertaste makes you not really want another. This would be good to order on a hot summer day at the brew pub to enjoy with your lunch.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beer Review: Russian River Pliny the Elder

I got a bottle of Pliny the Elder from my buddy Jeff in Seattle just a week or so ago. Being so sought after I was expecting a lot from this beer. A few of my friends have come across it in the Philly area on tap, but I had yet to have it. I split this bottle with my buddy Greg to celebrate a very special occasion.

Poured from a 500ml bottle dated 3.21.11, one month and one day old at the time of tasting, into a Duvel tulip. Appears cloudy bright gold, foamy off white head with a light sticky lacing. There's a small bit of head retention through the tasting. Steady carbonation streams at first that eventually calm. 

The aroma is delicately present without being overpowering. Smells of a complex blend of hop and citrus notes. Some dank earthy hop tones creep up as it warms. Up front it tastes citrusy sweet with mild hop bitterness. The middle is tart and creamy orange sweet. This beer feels extremely well balanced between the sweet and bitter side. Both sides shine! Feels thin to medium bodied with crisp carbonation.

Pliny t
astes and feels very well balanced, looks gorgeous and there's no hint of alcohol. It's very easy drinking and not a palate killer. This beer lives up to the hype. It's an extremely well made brew and within this style you won't find one better.

I've got some more goodies from Russian River that I'll eventually be getting to:
ConsecrationRedemption, Salvation Damnation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saturday Listening & Beer Party. YUMBowl!

A few of my concert tour buddies and I got together last Saturday for what has become an annual event. YUMBowl! It's kind of a spin off of Umphrey's McGee's now annual UMBowl. Last year when the band announced this special four set show in Chicago we decided that it would be cool to buy the high resolution download of the show and host our own listening party. We decided on the venue, our friend Dan's house in Chalfont, PA. He has a stellar audio playback system and comfortable seating. We all brought some good craft beer. Last year was a ton of fun, but this year we needed to step it up in the beer department.

We all brought lots of craft beer from our respective areas of the East coast (Baltimore, Philly, NJ/NY, CT) When we get together for concert tours we sometimes swap brews to collect stuff that can't be found in our home markets. We all arrived Friday evening and made several shopping trips to local grocery stores, bars and bottles shops. The Philly area beer scene cannot be beat. I believe that we each left with about as much beer as we brought.

I was very excited to finally get some stuff from Russian River, Pretty Things, New Glarus & Deschutes. Currently none of those breweries distribute to my area.

There is no way that I could do a full review of everything that we drank. Stand outs from the weekend for me were Goose Island Dominique, Victory Dark Intrigue, New Glarus Raspberry & ApplePretty Things Baby Tree & Fluffy White Rabbits & 2002 Victory Golden Monkey. Keep in mind that this lasted from Friday evening through the early hours of Sunday morning. Breaks for food and naps were taken. We believe that we helped to crash the Untappd servers with all of our check-ins. Here's the run down of what we had.

Cigar City Guava Grove
Russian River Damnation
Spring House Brewing Mango IPA
Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits
Goose Island Pepe Nero
Heavy Seas Siren Noir
Spring House Brewing Planet Bean 
Goose Island Dominique
Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet
New Glarus Raspberry Tart
Victory Golden Monkey (Vintage 2002)
Cisco Brewers Cherry Woods
Boston Beer Company Infinium
Pretty Things Baby Tree
Ale Union Amber
Dogfish Head Pangaea
Mikkeller/Stillwater Artisanal Two Gypsies Our Side
Russian River Sanctification
Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale
New Glarus Unplugged Apple Ale
Element Interval Series Vernal (wrapped)
Element Interval Series Vernal (wrapped)
Deschutes The Abyss (Vintage 2010)
Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale
Heavy Seas Holy Sheet
De Proefbrouwerij Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (Vintage 2008)
Bootleggers Brewery Black Phoenix

I didn't get pictures of these three:
JW Lees Harvest Ale (Vintage 2002)
Central Waters Illumination
Fegley's Brew Works Hop'solutely
Heavy Seas Dubbel Cannon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beer Review: Pretty Things Jack D'or

Pretty Things Jack D'or Saison
I had my first experience with Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project last weekend during a get together with some of my concert tour buddies. I enjoyed very much the Fluffy White Rabbits tripel and Baby Tree quad. I'll be doing full write ups on those whenever I get around to opening them.We don't get their stuff here in Maryland yet, supposedly they'll be here in the Fall. I recently opened a bottle of Jack D'or, their saison.

Right off the bat I am attracted to the insanely quirky label artwork. The blue paper cap label is reminiscent of the old tax stamps on liquor bottles. The label clearly tells me a lot about the beer, details which I appreciate. Style, ABV%, bottle date, batch number. The cap label had printed "Bottled MAR 2011 BATCH 23". The equally quirky story is a nice touch.  

I opened up this bottle and shared it with my wife. Mine went it to a Duvel tulip. It pours out cloudy golded yellow with a huge large bubbled fluffy white head and webbed sticky lacing. The aroma is of clove, pepper, yeast and a hint of lemony sweetness. So far it matches up with what I expect from a saison.

The flavor is the same the aroma, clove, pepper, yeasty, light lemony with the addition of sharp hop bitterness in the finish. There is not very much depth or complexity to this brew. It's a solid clean focused flavor profile that does not push the envelope. It feels thin to medium in body with a good crisp carbonation pop. At 6.4% alcohol by volume this one has a bit more kick than a session beer, but you'll have a hard time finding that in the flavor profile or mouth feel.

Jack D'or is a decent brew, but nothing I'd go crazy for. It's a good representation of the style without going too extreme with extra flavors. It's good to support small breweries, and it's easy to do so at the current price point. I was able to get six Pretty Things bombers for about $6 each. I'll keep a bottle of this on hand as a good introduction to the style and to craft brews.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday Afternoon at the Dogfish Head Brew Pub

Last night I posted about a new Dogfish Head beer in the musician inspired series of collaborations with Sony Legacy. While I was extremely excited to try and write about Hellhound, I feel like the brew pub exclusives that we enjoyed deserved some attention as well.

I've been lucky enough to make it down to the Rehoboth brew pub a handful of times over that last 5 years. I'm sure some folks will go right for their favorite DFH stand-by, whether it be the 60 Minute IPA, the 90 Minute IPA or something a bit more sessionable like the Shelter Pale Ale or the Lawnmower Light. I went right for the experimental goodies. This is the gold in my opinion. Brew pub exclusives, some of which will never make it to large production. Here we go.

Dogfish Head Noble Rot

Noble Rot is explained to be some what like a saison but with pinot gris grapes. It pours cloudy bright orange with little to no head or lacing. It smells of lightly sour citrus with hints of grape. Huge bright flavors up front that include the pinot gris grapes, some spice and a hint of sour funk. Tastes very much like wine. The beer settles in exactly as it arrived, bold crisp and sweet. It finishes clean and sour. It feels thin to medium thin in body.

I'm very glad that this was a snifter pour. Not counting the relatively high 8.3% ABV, it has a big smack to the palate of flavor. It's very good in my opinion as it blends the good qualities of a saison with a pinot gris wine.

Dogfish Head Ta Henket
Ta Henket is one of Dogfish Head's "ancient ales". It's brewed with emmer wheat, dom-palm fruit, chamomille and zatar. Cloudy clear, thin head that stays at the edge, very loose quick lacing, bright orange in color. The aroma has earthy grassy notes, creamy almost a hint of green onion? Weird.

Immediately I noticed how odd and complex this beer is. Lots of mild spices and earthy notes work very well together. Doesn't taste or feel like a beer at all. But, what is beer really? The middle is mildly sweet and creamy and it finishes clean and easy with little after taste. Most of the ingredients are completely new to me, so I did not know exactly what to expect. They combine to produce a very complex and focused beer. This is one of the most unique beers I've ever encountered as far as flavor. While it does have a lot of "new to me" flavors its fairly easy on the palate as they all work well together to a focused center. This could easily be a session beer. I'm hoping that this one eventually gets bottled.

Dogfish Head Fungus Tea'Mungus
Fungus Tea'Mungus is described as an American wild ale that is "Kombucha tea inspired with leom peel, Assam and Sencha teas and fermented with Kombucha and other wild yeasts". I've been getting in to the wild ales recently so I was happy to try this.

It pours light clear orange with a decent fluffy white head and quick lacing The aroma brings sharp spiced citrus and mild sour notes. Prominent tea flavors take over the beginning of the tasting. As some spice kicks in we begin to lean toward a chai flavor profile. Some nice citrus notes appear towards the middle. Finishes bitter and sour.

Another very unique brew from DFH. I found this to be very enjoyable and easy on the palate. I'd explain this to others as a chai spiced mild sour. I'd order again and would purchase bottles if it ever got that far. 

Dogfish Head Black & Red
The beast of the day was Black & Red which is described as "A dry minted stout with a serious fruit problem" It pours pitch black, huge tan head, sticky thin lacing. It's just plain gorgeous. The first whif is of mint. MINT! Lots of it. Smells of a thin mint cookie as some chocolate notes sneak in behind the mint. This is certainly a first for me. The mint is not nearly as prominent in the flavor, its very mild. This was a relief. The mint gives way to huge fruit flavors. I picked up blueberry, raspberry and cherries. A lot of fruit. Like, a smack in the face of fruit. Mild chocolate roast notes in the middle mellow things out a bit. Finishes tart with a long lingering after taste.

A truly unique brew. At no point was the ABV noticeable, which is surprising at 10.5%. This does not feel like a stout to me at all. This is a flavor bomb and is very heavy on the palate. It took me more than 30 minutes to finish a snifter. This one is definitely not for the average beer drinker. I am very split on this beer. I really enjoyed the experience but I feel that this needs some more work if it were to be produced for distribution. It's almost startling. I wonder how it would age?  

Dogfish Head Robert Johnson's Hellhound On My Ale
Robert Johnson's Hellhound On My Ale 
A new IPA to the Dogfish Head fleet. This one is a bit more fruity and citrusy. I did a full write up on this one last night, check it out here.

Dogfish Head Namaste
As our afternoon came to a close I decided to end with a pint of Namaste. This is DFH's interpretation of the Belgian white style that has been mass-marketed bastardized by the people at Blue Moon.
Namaste needs no sliced orange on the rim as it's brewed with dried organic orange slices. Also in the mix is fresh cut lemon grass and toasted coriander. I've enjoyed this brew several times.

It pours cloudy light orange/yellow with a big fluffy white head and sticky thin lacing The smell is of mild citrus and spice notes with a hint of creaminess. The flavor is sharp and crisp lemony citrus, coriander spice with a creamy chewyness. Finishes very clean. It's a very well balanced and enjoyable session beer.

Excellent representation of the style. Does not push the envelope at all but completely nails the style. This is a very good and easy to drink beer. I will keep this one on hand for my friends that always order those mass produced and artificial tasting witbiers

So, that was our afternoon. It was fantastic. In true awesome-wife form, Erin volunteered to be sober driver. I love her. Very much:) Cheers.